By Bulldog Drummond
There are some newspaper and blog headlines that are so bonkers it is hard to know if they are deliberately funny or just the result of a bot going haywire. Take this for example
Arsenal v Watford preview: Gunners can leapfrog high-flying opponents
Now this whole notion of leapfrogging the high-flyers raises the question of just how high one might have to go. I mean a leapfrogger only goes a few inches off the ground, but a high flyer flies, well quite high making the leapfroggery difficult. In short, don’t mix metaphors.
But will that make us high flying?
Anyway this is the first time we have ever faced Watford without actually being higher in the league than they are, in 34 years.
And one more snippet. At the start of the 2013/14 season we lost 1-3 to Aston Villa in a game that was so referee influenced even Match of the Day had difficulty in finding bits it could show without revealing what the referee was up to. Since then we have learned the lesson of needing to do twice as much as other clubs to win.
Only twice have we failed to score in the last 36 home games in the Premier League, and Watford have lost 15 of the last 16 games against the teams that ended up in the top six last season. So a 3-0 to us looks viable.
So who might play?
Cech obviously is the first choice for the manager, and his performance last time around revealed why that should be so. It looked like a very strong return to his best form.
At the back we have the usual line up of Bellerin, Sokratis, Holding or Mustafi and Monreal. Sokratis is fit against and Holding is really coming on apace but Mustafi still seems to be ahead of him in the manager’s eyes. Kolasinac is available again so should be on the beach; I can’t see him replacing Monreal at the moment. But it is good to have a back up left back once again.
And if Holding does drop down to the bench we have got a good backup player there should anything there.
In the middle Torreira is an absolute must; he has been playing brilliantly, and was not playing against Brentford. The manager clearly likes two defensive players ahead of the back four, so presumably Xhaka will stay in position alongside him. The other possibilities here are Ramsey and Mkhitaryan, but I just can’t see the manager moving away from two defensively minded players.
Further it seems that if the talk about the Ramsey contract talks failing is true, there’s no need now to keep Ramsey happy by playing him a lot, and the club might as well get used to being there without him. That would also show to others that if they take this line, the club will not endlessly hold onto such players and ceaselessly manipulate the club’s finances just to hold onto them. After all if we pay ever more to Ramsey that is less money for everyone else.
Further, everyone knows that out of the Mkhitaryan / Alexis swap deal there was only one winner. Manchester United are stuck with a player who is earning an absolute fortune every day, and yet isn’t delivering. Alexis has played 17 games since moving from Arsenal to Man U and has scored two goals and done little else.
So if we play a back four and have two defensive midfielders in front of them that obviously leaves us with four outfielders to go. The choices are Ramsey, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Welbeck.
My choice would be Ozil in the middle playing the number 10, with a front three of Aubameyang, Lacazette, Mkhitaryan. The other way of doing this would be to have Ramsey in the middle, Ozil on the left, Aubamayang on the right and Lacazette as the number 9.
Quite honestly, either combination ought to scare the hell out of Watford, but probably won’t as they are still full of being above us in the league. So they could be a big gung ho going forward and we could exploit that.
I think the manager will probably go with…
Bellerin Mustafi Sokratis Monreal
Ozil Ramsey Aubameyang
On the beach that leaves seven from these nine: Leno, Lichtsteiner, Kolasinac, Holding, Guendouzi, Elneny, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Welbeck. Three of those are back four replacements, and at the most we only need two, so maybe I’d leave out Lichtsteiner, and from the forwards Iwobi. I would certainly keep Elneny on the bench since he can play full back, centre back and defensive midfield.
And that’s it. Everything’s ready. The old folks have had their flu jabs. Off we go to get the train.
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